Sam Wallace: Element of relief for Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp that he is no longer in limbo over England


Click to follow
The Independent Football

Had the cards fallen differently for Harry Redknapp, he would have been at Wembley Stadium yesterday, talking to David Bernstein in the Football Association offices just a short walk from the Bobby Moore statue that gazes out across north-west London towards Brent Town Hall in the distance.

For a West Ham player of the generation to which Redknapp belonged, Moore loomed large, which is putting it mildly. "Mooro was a God, there are no two ways about it," Redknapp said in his 1998 autobiography 'Arry. He tells stories of Moore's friendliness towards him as a young player, his obsessive tidiness but also his legendary boozing as well as the remarkable occasion that the World Cup-winning captain, 29 at the time, was escorted from the pub by his mother because his wife Tina was waiting for him to take her out.

Redknapp, who played for West Ham for seven years until 1972, was never good enough to play for England, and his first experience of a World Cup finals, in 1990, as a 43-year-old manager at Bourne-mouth almost cost him his life.

His friend Brian Tiler, then the chief executive of Bournemouth died in the car crash near Latina, south of Rome, that very nearly claimed the life of Redknapp too. They were on their way to England's quarter-final against Cameroon in Naples when their minibus collided with a car containing three Italian men – all of whom died – driving on the wrong side of the road.

He has admitted in the past that the experience, especially Tiler's death, should have mellowed him, but it never did. Redknapp, sodden with petrol, was dragged out of the wreckage by one of the party, the then-chairman of York City, Michael Sinclair, who was concerned that what was left of the van might explode. Redknapp only woke up two days later in hospital with, among his injuries, a fractured skull. Within a few weeks he was back at Dean Court watching games anonymously against the doctors' advice.

Redknapp has always been hugely ambitious and, after initial doubts following Fabio Capello's departure on 8 February, he came to want the England job. It was a prospect he warmed to during Tottenham's slump of the last three months brought home to him by the stress of managing in the Premier League at his age. He was hopeful of an approach from the FA but should Hodgson reject the opportunity there is no prospect of Redknapp accepting the job as the FA's second choice.

He was understood to have been philosophical about his rejection by the FA, to the extent that he feels a weight has been lifted from his shoulders, reflected in the brief interviews he gave yesterday to television crews when he wished Hodgson well. He has been in limbo since his acquittal on two tax evasion charges coincided with Capello's departure from the England job and now feels that he can plan his future properly.

His priority now is that he can agree a new contract with the Tottenham chairman, Daniel Levy, to replace his current deal that runs out at the end of next season. He and Levy have never had an easy relationship and it would not have been a difficult parting had the call come from the FA but both will have to forge ahead now.

The problem for Redknapp will be maintaining the momentum of his first three and a half years at Spurs, especially given the faltering run of late. There is a strong sense that even if Spurs qualify for the Champions League, Gareth Bale will be sold this summer which means that Redknapp will have to fight to convince his squad, as well as potential signings, that the club are moving forward.

Replacing Emmanuel Adebayor, whose loan from Manchester City expires at the end of the season, will not be straightforward, neither will signing a new centre-half now that Ledley King looks finally to have pushed himself as far as possible. That is before Spurs reach the possibility of another summer mutiny from Luka Modric who, despite last year's problems, is regarded as having behaved well during the season.

In those terms, it can look rather bleak. But this is Redknapp, a man who has a knack for turning a bad situation around. When he was treated by the emergency services at that crash 32 years ago, the paramedic's first reaction was to pull a blanket over his face. "They thought I was a goner," recalled Redknapp, years later. He was not then. He is not now.